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Getting Through Another Anxious Xmas

If you’ve heard about the controversial Heinz Christmas dinner in a tin, you’ve probably guessed this Christmas is going to be another weird one. The festivities are clouded by the panny d yet again, throwing up a whole load of new anxieties.

Recent headlines have put a bit of a Debbie downer on upcoming celebrations and the countdown to Christmas is marked by daily lateral flow tests and worries about having to isolate on the big day.

Along with the news that we may face food shortages and rising energy prices, it can be difficult to muster the usual Christmas spirit. Panic buyers are already hammering down the supermarket doors in search of sprouts – it’s enough to make anyone want to curl up in bed and forget the whole thing.

At CALM, we know Xmas isn’t a jolly holiday for everyone. There’s stuff that can make this time of year really tough. Being bombarded by happy families on TV and social media can bring up some hard feelings, and the endless posts about festive plans can actually end up making us feel pretty lonely. Add to that, the worry that turning on the festive lights will leave us with a leccy bill that bites us in the bum, well, maybe Mr Scrooge was onto something with that ‘bah humbug’ stuff. 

So if the mention of the 25th December has got your palms all sweaty, we’re here to help. We asked our helpline workers for some advice on how to quiet common Christmas anxieties. 

“I feel under pressure to buy gifts for friends and family, but I can barely make my bills this month.”

Money can be stressful at the best of times, but it can be especially worrying at Christmas. If you’re feeling the pinch this year, be honest with your friends and family about what you can afford. 

Money worries can quickly mount up this time of year, but no Christmas should come at the cost of your mental wellbeing. It can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to spend – there’s the expensive socials, secret santas, food and the spenny bills that come with being home more. It can feel pretty overwhelming. 

We all know the sinking feeling that can come with checking your bank balance and the holidays can be brutal on our hard-earned pennies, but being honest with your friends and fam about what you can realistically afford is a great place to start. Most people will understand, and many will even be relieved to have an honest conversation about Christmas cash. Chances are, lots of them will be in the same boat.

If you have some spare time on your hands and you’re feeling creative, you could even try your hand at something homemade. Don’t worry, you don’t need to take up knitting if it isn’t your bag, try whizzing up a home-brewed hot sauce or put your GCSE art skills to use and paint a portrait of your mate – in our books, the more terrible it is, the better. 

“There’s so many social events and I don’t want to tell my mates I’m feeling stressed about them.” 

Time to yourself can feel hard to come by at Xmas, so stop carving the turkey and carve out some me time instead. Don’t feel bad about it, we all need space. 

We get it, festive gatherings are great, but sometimes you just want to hang out at home wrapped up in a (pigs in) blanket burrito. It’s normal to feel a bit peopled-out after rushing around crowded shopping centres and meeting mates for mulled wine. We don’t mean to sound like the Grinch, but it’s important to enjoy some time on your own too – even if it is just to eat those mince pies meant for Xmas Day. 

“I’m still anxious about Covid, but I feel embarrassed to tell people.”

Things feel uncertain this Christmas with Covid still looming over our celebrations like a big fun-sucking sponge. 

We disagree with our families about all sorts of things, but Covid brings a new topic for us to bicker about. It can be tough when you and the people you care about are on different pages about how you all feel safest, but it’s okay to be transparent about how you’d like to spend Christmas.

If that means you’d rather connect on a video call, that’s totally fine. Someone else in your social circle probably feels the same way. There are lots of ways you can still catch up without feeling uncomfortable. Why not wrap up in plenty of layers (style notes taken from Michelin Man) and meet up outside at a distance. Equally, if you know someone who is feeling more anxious about things than you, respect that we’re all coping in different ways. However you choose to do, or not do Christmas, is okay. 

“It’s making me anxious that I won’t be able to get hold of food and I’m meant to be hosting Christmas day.”

Why not take the stress off things and swap turkey for tacos? If food shortages are weighing on your mind, try something different for dinner this year. 

If you’ve ever cooked a Christmas dinner, you’ll know just how stressful the whole thing can be – there’s never enough room in the oven, something always burns and the chances are, a well-meaning member of the family is calling out advice from the sidelines. Don’t get us wrong, you can’t beat a roast, but the pressure to stick to tradition is real. Remember, there’s nothing stopping you breaking the rules this yule. 

If you’re worried about getting hold of the usual festive ingredients, start something new and cook your fave meal instead. Pizza on Christmas day? Why not? Anything goes. You could even head out for dinner, or if you really don’t want to budge on the turkey, or tofurky, and trimmings, look at planning ahead and popping stuff in the freezer, or arrange a food delivery for nearer the time. Finally, if you’re finding things tough financially, you could ask about being referred to your local food bank, or ask everyone to chip in with a dish and host a buffet. 

“This time of year always makes me feel lonely. How can I feel better about spending Christmas by myself?”

Christmas can be a trigger for tricky emotions – and loneliness is a biggy. Even if you’ve chosen to spend the festivities alone, being swamped by people’s plans on social media can be taxing.

If you’re feeling daunted by a long day alone, divide your time up into stuff you love. Go for a walk at your favourite place, catch up with people on the phone, switch on the PS4 for a games-marathon, take part in an online event or local community group, or make a slap up feast with your favourite foods. Do whatever makes you happy and the day will feel a little easier. And if you need to talk, CALM’s helpline is open from 5pm to midnight on Christmas Day and every day to talk about whatever you’re facing – big or small. 

Loneliness isn’t all about being alone. You can feel lonely even when you’re with people. From having lots on your mind, to feeling more introverted than usual, it’s normal to feel detached or withdrawn sometimes. 

Christmas is a time that a lot of us spend with family – and for some of us, that means not being able to be or feel our true self. Hiding or muting who you are can really take its toll, so try to make sure you carve out some time to chat to people who make you feel good – from Whatsapp chats to an alternative Christmas get together. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with saying no to a Xmas do if you think it’s going to make you feel low about yourself. 

Alongside the things we love about Christmas, there’s no denying that it can also be a challenging time. If you’re finding it hard, remember that CALM are here for you 365 days of the year. Our free, confidential helpline and webchat service is run by trained staff who can offer support and advice. 

Be part of something bigger 

At CALM we’re all about standing together against suicide – and we all have a part to play. Hit this link and we’ll send you a newsletter every month so you can campaign, game, fundraise, bake, race, volunteer, cheer or chat over a couple of beers… against living miserably.

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